Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Oh, not again (re: the growing TBR pile & HF cliches)

Blast. On my weekly trip to Tescos I happened to swing by the book section. Result: there is now another volume on my TBR pile. This time it's William Napier's Attila. Last time out, Mr Napier failed to impress me with Julia (link to Carla's blog, but see my comments). A quick flick through Attila made me take a chance. On settling down to have a closer look at home, the author seems to falling into cliches all over the show. The prologue is written by an old man in a monastery looking back over his long life (this may sound familiar to Carla in particular at present), and the first chapter gives a description of the weather and shows two people on horseback, on a hill, watching it. Give it a rest. Oh please, shoot me now :-) Almost makes me nostalgic for the likes of clever clogs Julian Rathbone. I shan't look further till I have time to read Attila properly.

I think old men reminiscing (in monasteries or not) should be included in the Historical Fiction Rules, along with two soldiers on horseback and bright dawns in the first paras of chapter one ... What do you reckon Sarah and Alan?

8 Comments:

At 5:39 pm BST, Blogger Carla said...

Old men reminiscing would sweep up some of Bernard Cornwell, too. Derfel was writing his life story in a monastery in the Arthur trilogy, and now Uhtred as an old man (though probably not in a monastery) is recalling his life in the Alfred series. Sometimes the fictional memoir device works, sometimes it doesn't.
I flicked through Attila at the library and put it back on the shelf for another day. I don't like the TBR list to get out of hand or it starts to feel like a chore and I hate that. If/when you read the rest of Attila I'll be interested to hear what you think.

 
At 5:52 pm BST, Blogger Alex Bordessa said...

It got on the TBR pile because it's 5th century - they tend to get fast-tracked for peculiar reason ;-)

There isn't a need to frame hf as a memoir, and I'm not sure why people do it. It seems old fashioned to me. Cornwell is so seamless that I didn't really notice it; he makes it relevant perhaps, as Uhtred uses it to explain his arrogant behaviour.

 
At 6:24 pm BST, Blogger Carla said...

It's easy, I guess, and allows a sort of make-believe that this is really an ancient scroll unearthed by the author and translated....

I think I'm being dim here. How does Uhtred use the memoir frame to explain his arrogant behaviour? (And I'm glad I'm not the only one who found him arrogant!)

 
At 6:28 pm BST, Blogger Stephen said...

One of my (abandoned) ideas for my (shelved) novel about Æthelræd II was to start with two or three men reminiscing in a monastery, but I had a (reasonably sound) reason for this. The Anglosaxon Chronicle was effectively suspended for most of Æthelræd's reign, and the account of those years is therefore rich in hindsight. My characters, loyal friends of the late king, could see what was about to happen with the chronicle and wanted to get a more honest version out there.

But with a 38 year reign it is quite a stretch to have plausible reminiscences going all the way back to the death of the evil Edward, so even if the novel gets written it will probably not have the old men reminiscing.

 
At 7:56 pm BST, Blogger Alex Bordessa said...

Carla: Uhtred sometimes makes an aside saying he was young, arrogant, crass, etc, so he's able to comment on his own behaviour now he's older. In fact, I think he's not really said he's writing it down or anything (as far as I recall), it's more like storytelling in the firelight. That more or less squares the memoir business for me.

I think the memoir device allied with the men from the minstry, I mean monastery, is too obvious, but that's just my opinion. People can use it if they want, but I don't have to like it ;-) I'd prefer it if the author dives in; a novel is already an artifical construct so there's no need to justify it.

Stephen: I'd love to see your novel one day :-) Is Beau Bowden Kelmarshing this year, btw?

 
At 5:17 pm BST, Blogger Sarah Cuthbertson said...

Yes, there's certainly a need for a set of rules for Openings of Historical Novels -- anybody want to take it on?

 
At 8:17 pm BST, Blogger Alex Bordessa said...

Er, can't they just be added to the general list? I can only think of those two. Unless anyone can think of any more opening chapter rules????

 
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